How to Choose & Use a Board Game Marketing Strategy that Works

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Welcome to the third unit of Start to Finish: Publish and Sell Your First Board Game. First came Game Development 101 and then came Designing & Developing Your Game. I’ve been slowly unfurling this long, long, long series of blog posts with wonderful collaborators and I have had an absolutely wonderful time. That’s why I’m especially excited to introduce you to unit 3: Marketing & Promoting Your Game. This is the first post of fifteen, maybe a little more if I find myself extra inspired between now and July.


Marketing – it’s a little more complicated than this.


Marketing is a tricky beast. At its root, marketing is all about finding, keeping, and pleasing customers. This is simple to explain, maybe even obvious. Yet beneath the surface, you have a business function and area of study that is rife with different methods and schools of thought, many of which contradict each other. To make matters harder, marketing is not something you can track super easily. There has been great progress in the world of business that has turned marketing from an art to a science, but there is still an element of ambiguity that will never be nailed down quite like accounting, product development, quality assurance, finance, or even management.

For the sake of this guide, I’m going to assume you are a board game developer with intentions to self-publish. I’m also going to assume you don’t have an audience yet and that you have no formal training in business or marketing. Even if some of these assumptions don’t apply to you, my use of these assumptions will keep complicated material simple and approachable for you.

This guide comes in 11 parts. The parts with asterisks beside them draw heavily from A Crash Course in Board Gaming, so you can skip them if you’ve read that article already.

  1. Common Marketing Strategies
  2. Don’t Focus on Methods, Focus on Fundamentals
  3. The Basics of Marketing *
  4. Audience *
  5. Product *
  6. Branding
  7. Gaining Attention
  8. Building Interest
  9. Creating Desire
  10. Using Calls to Action
  11. Bringing it All Together


Common Marketing Strategies


No matter what marketing strategy you choose, certain aspects of marketing remain roughly the same. You want to create a product or service that appeals to a certain audience. Over time, you build up a brand, both for your company and your individual products and services. To generate sales, you’ll need to gain the attention of your target audience and take them through all the steps of purchasing it.

Some common marketing strategies include paid advertising, relationship marketing (customer loyalty), undercover/stealth marketing, cause marketing, word-of-mouth, and internet marketing. They are all pretty much what they sound like. You can use niche marketing for small, odd little audiences with unique needs and you can use diversity marketing to cover a lot of different bases at once.


Don’t Focus on Methods, Focus on Fundamentals


As you can tell from above, there are a lot of different types of marketing strategies. To list them exhaustively would be both exhausting and not particularly useful. I could even explain what all the common marketing strategies above are about, but that’s not really the best use of our time.

I want you not to understand individual strategies, but the ideas behind them. That’s why I’ll be talking about your product, branding, getting people to care, and sales funnels later on. I’m going to go into a little more depth than I did with A Crash Course in Board Game Marketing & Promotion, this time covering lead generation, community building, and calls to action in more depth.

While I will be providing examples of methods, I’m not going to tell you what to do. You need to understand the fundamentals, take a cue from my examples, and try an experiment on your own. What works for me might not work for you, so you need to learn to tweak your approach like a scientist.


The Basics of Marketing


At the root of any good marketing strategy, you have to understand two things. First, you need to know who your target audience is, what they’re interested in, and how they behave. Second, you need to understand how to make them buy your games. I’ll cover audience in a moment, but first I’d like to reintroduce you to the idea of the AIDA model and how it can help you build a sales funnel. I’ve mentioned this before in How to Get Big on Twitter as a Board Game Dev and A Crash Course in Board Game Marketing & Promotion. I’m lifting this straight from my prior Crash Course article – it bears repeating because this model is that important to understand.


AIDA Model


AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. When you’re a marketer, the first thing you need to do is get people to know you exist – attention. Then you have to make people care about your game – interest. If they start to want your game, that’s a good sign – desire. Next, they get on your website or Amazon with intention to buy – action. Marketing is a slow dance. You have to very slowly build your reputation.

The idea here is that marketing is not just about getting attention and targeting your audience well. No, it’s about convincing people to buy your game and to talk about. This is a multi-step process and you need to understand that. You cannot simply shout about your game into the void of Twitter and pray for the best. You need to create a “sales funnel.”

Here is an example of a sales funnel:

  • Use social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to “generate leads” or garner Attention.
  • Ask people individually if they’d like to sign up for your newsletter. If they say yes, that’s Interest.
  • Use your newsletter effectively to create Desire.
  • Once you’ve created desire, ask them to take Action, like backing your Kickstarter.




For your sales funnel to be useful, you need to create one and apply it to your target audience. Here is another section I’ve lifted from the original Crash Course to explain why your target audience is so important.



There is no perfect product. There is no perfect audience. When it comes to marketing, there is no way to make something that is objectively the best in all situations. Because value is so subjective, what you need to focus on is making the perfect product for a very specific audience.

In board gaming, there are lots of little communities. Remember, the board game community is not a monolithic singular entity, but rather a whole bunch of different mini-communities with interests that roughly line up. For example, I’ll never get people to play Twilight Struggle with me at a party, but Codenames…now we’re talking. All the considerations that go into making a game –  length, weight, price, art style, gameplay, packaging, and so on – needs to be tailored for a very specific audience. Alternatively, you can make whatever you want and just find the perfect audience later. Both approaches work and have different pros and cons.

The goal of marketing, especially when you’re small and just getting started, is not to broadcast your message. Until you have a big media presence, you can’t really use “the hype machine” to your advantage. You just don’t have the power to do that. You can, however, target a very particular audience – this is the best use of your limited resources and it’s much more effective. Don’t broadcast. Narrowcast instead.




Now I’m going to lift one last section from my original Crash Course to talk about how your product fits into your marketing strategy.

If you look on Board Game Geek, you’ll find that there are so many types of games out there. It’ll make your head spin. You want to know exactly what sort of game you’re making so that you can select the ideal target market and tweak around them. If you can’t describe your game, you’re in deep marketing trouble.

I suggest you look on Board Game Geek to find similar games to yours. There will always be similar games. Know how to make comparisons of your game to other games. Highways & Byways, for example, is a racing game with a board that looks like Ticket to Ride crossed with a highway map.

Know how to describe mechanics that are in your game and see who it appeals to. Some people dislike “take that” mechanics because they’re too mean-spirited, such as the well-regarded reviewer, Rahdo. It’s no use selling a game with “take that” mechanics to him, then, is it? Likewise, some people really, really love “take that” mechanics and they’re the ones I sell War Co. to.

Know exactly who you’re trying to appeal to. This determines your target audience. Your target audience will differ with each game.




No, no, no. I said brandING!


Branding is a nebulous concept that makes people think of logos and company names. That’s all important, but to focus on that would be to miss the forest for the trees. A brand is pretty much anything – a product, a company, a person – that has a consistent message to share with a defined audience. To build your brand, pick something you want people to see and make sure that it’s visible. You want people to associate your brand with your messages. For me, I like the personal touch and I like being involved in my business hands-on. That means I, Brandon Rollins – the actual physical person sitting in Tennessee, act as a brand within my larger company of Pangea Games.

Once you decide what brand you want to push and the messages you want to send, you need to use consistent messaging so people will associate your messages with your brand. That could mean a logo, a color scheme, and name and a lot else. Coca-Cola’s brand is the ornate calligraphy of their name and the red, white, and black colors. My brand, at least as far as this blog is concerned, is to put my face as many places as is appropriate, use a lot of blue and white, and to always speak to the board game developer with 0-2 years of experience.

You’ll have to experiment with your branding until you find what works. It won’t come immediately. Try different names, color schemes, and even target audiences. Zig-zag until you find out what resonates with people you want to reach out to.


Gaining Attention


The first step of any working marketing strategy is to draw attention. The ways you can go about gaining people’s attention are myriad, but I’ll cover a few here. The process of drawing attention to your product or your company is called lead generation and it’s simultaneously one of the most important and most opaque parts of any marketing strategy.

There are a lot of ways you can generate leads. Here is a short list just to get your imagination going:

  • Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram
  • Game reviews
  • Content creation (blogs, podcasts, etc.) – more details on that next week
  • Using Kickstarter to launch smaller projects
  • Advertising
  • Community building

The common thread in all forms of lead generation is that you find a place where people gather and you talk to them about what you’re making or selling. You need to be systematic, organized, and consistent. Your time and money is limited, so you only want to spend it on people who are highly likely to like what you’ve got – your target market. Furthermore, anything you do needs to be consistent with your brand.



There is no perfect method and I’m still refining my own forms of lead generation. Every business will need a different method. Here are some that I’ve used in the past.

I’ve used services such as ScoutZen to export the follower lists of people similar to me on Twitter and Instagram. I get the followers in a spreadsheet and I follow a couple dozen on each account every morning. I do this all by hand, manually reviewing accounts so I don’t bother inactive people, people outside my market, and spam accounts. If you try to automate this, you might run into trouble with the automation rules of those sites. This method tends to earn me 200-300 qualified leads every week, though your results may vary. These are people who have a good chance of getting added to my Highways & Byways email list or to the Discord server.

This blog also generates leads. I used to have to push it really hard on social media, but after a while, Brandon the Game Dev posts started showing up on Google and, when I’m really lucky, Reddit. Those sites bring people to me, and some of them get on my mailing list or in my Discord server. It took months for this site to start generating its own leads, but it’s finally gotten there 🙂

Every time a reviewer reviews my game or I do a guest post on a blog, interview, Twitch stream, or podcast, I always make sure to push people to one page I really want them to go to. That’s a landing page. I’ve used the Highways & Byways Kickstarter page lately, which is a mailing list that will alert people when the campaign is live. The reviews, blogs, interviews, and so on – those are all lead generation methods.

I’ve used small amounts of advertising to push the posts on this blog and to get people to pay attention to Highways & Byways. Facebook ads are a particularly effective form of lead generation. Giveaway contests, in particular, have been extremely effective on the Highways & Byways Facebook page. To learn more, please read Jamey Stegmaier’s Beginner’s Guide to Facebook Ads. Fantastic resource, so you’ll learn from the best!


Building Interest


It’s not enough to just draw attention, though. You need to work your leads list. That involves making sure they understand what your game or your company are about and making them interested. A lot of your leads won’t be so good, so they’ll drop off at this point. Still, there are a number of ways to gain people’s interest.

You can post pictures of your product. You can give people behind-the-scenes slices of life on social media. You can create useful guides for other creators on a blog. You can send everybody a custom message and ask them if they’d like to sign up for your mailing list. I’ve done a mix of all four of these and have found them to work out.

There are a lot of examples I can give you here, but most of them go back to smart branding. There are three really big ones that I use that I’d like to share.

The first one is so simple: send people direct messages on social media. I build a lot of my leads on social media. Every Friday, I send all my new followers messages by hand to see if they’d like to join Discord or the Highways & Byways mailer. I usually get a 10-15% conversion rate, whereas automated messages tend to be a lot lower. I read profiles and customize my messages a little for everybody. Yes, I use boilerplate messages which I tend to copy and paste, but I customize them as much as possible based on what I see.

The second is build landing pages. Landing pages are special pages on your website intended to briefly describe what you’re doing and give people a way to provide their name, email, or other personal information. Landing pages are a great place to send people after you get their attention and the seamlessly bridge the gap from attention to desire. Here is an example of a landing page I used for a Highways & Byways contest. Feel free to steal my layout and copy most of my text.

Speaking of giveaway contests, that’s my third method of generating interest is running a giveaway contest. Yes, I know this overlaps with something I mentioned for gaining attention. The beauty of giveaway contests on Facebook is that they often do both at the same time. Pick a good prize, come up with a good target audience, and take out a little bit of money in ads. I tell people “in order to win, you have to sign up on this landing page, share the post, like the post, and like the page.” Doing these four things gets me enormous ROI on my Facebook ads. It doesn’t even take much to get people to take action either – you can use a $25 Amazon gift card or a copy of a light game like Sushi Go.


Creating Desire


Once you make people interested, you need to make them care. There are few ways to make people care, but there are two that I can easily measure: mailing lists and communities. The size of your mailing list or community is a good proxy for the level of desire for your product or company, because nobody joins a community if they don’t care. For that matter, nobody gives out their personal email address if they don’t care.

Mailing lists are considered one of the most powerful forms of marketing. It’s also pretty accessible. You can use Mailchimp to set up a mailing list in about 20 minutes. They’ll help you create a landing page and they’ve got templates for when you want to send out emails. Once you figure out how to gain attention and interest, you can continue gathering emails and stay in touch with people who are interested. What you decide to share in your emails will hopefully help others care more about your product, and they may act as a call to action (which I’ll cover in a little bit). I built mine up through the lead generation and interest building ways listed above. If you want to see an example of a newsletter being used, you can always sign up for mine 😉

Communities work in the same way. Communities can be Facebook groups, chat rooms, forums, as well as physical offline clubs or organizations, too. Having an open line of communication with people who are interested in your product or company is really useful because that’s what you can use to get people to take action later. Once you start to build a community, establish a few ground rules, get a few close members and establish social norms. Once you do that, communities can practically run on autopilot within a year.

You’ll see a common thread here. The “Desire” step of the AIDA model is intended to create a holding ground for people who have already paid attention and shown interest. You need an open line of communication with those people, and the ways above will help you do that.


Using Calls to Action


Once you’ve spent all this time getting people’s attention, piquing their interest, and stoking their desire, it’s now when you can move forward and get what you wanted along. A call to action, in marketing speak, is pretty much anything that requests people buy your product, get on your mailing list, or do anything else that you want them to do. A call to action can involve a direct message, a well-placed button on your website, a link in an email, or even a Kickstarter campaign. Yes, Kickstarter campaigns are essentially just one giant call to action. That’s their real value – otherwise, you’re just doing a regular product launch.



How you will call people to action depends upon the tools you’re using to gain attention, build interest, and so on. However, the basics are simple: be very clear about what you want, ask directly, and make sure your customer is truly in your target audience. You’ll want to tweak until you get your calls to action just right.

Some calls to action I use include:

  • Any time I use the Highways & Byways Kickstarter landing page link and say “click here to get an email when the campaign is live.”
  • Direct messages where I ask people to back my campaign or join my Discord server.
  • The bright orange button in the middle of my blog’s home page that pushes the Discord server.


Bringing it All Together


I’ve covered a lot of ground today, so I’d like to tie it all together and help you actually choose a marketing strategy that works. Instead of a normal concluding paragraph, I’d like to leave you with a checklist of things you can do to make a marketing strategy that works. I want you to have specific to-do’s.

  • Figure out exactly who you want to sell to. Know your audience inside and out. Imagine them as individuals and be able to describe their personalities.
  • Create a product that is perfectly suited for that audience.
  • Create a clear brand that speaks to the personalities and needs of your audience.
  • Test all of the above in any way you can. Ask others for feedback. Use Facebook ads and see what gets the most likes. Take no assumptions for granted.
  • Come up with three ways to generate leads. You can use my examples from above. Try a different one each week. Drop the least effective method, do the most effective one more, and keep doing the second-best one for a little while just so you don’t overspecialize.
  • Make a list of all your leads. Think of a way to reach out to each of them and generate interest (if that’s not build into your lead generation process from the beginning).
  • Create either a mailing list or a community for people to join once they’re paying attention and interested.
  • Try different calls to action based on my examples above. Only keep the ones that work and use them consistently.
  • As much as you can, track data on all of this. Listen to the data and change your processes so that you’re doing more of what gets you attention, interest, desire, and sales.

How to Order and Test Samples of Your Board Game

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Board game development is a very individual process. Every single developer has different methods for creating their games. This article is the last of a 19-part suite on board game design and development.

Today I’ll be talking about how to check your work. Specifically, I’ll be talking about ordering and testing samples of your game. There are a lot of reasons you might want to do this. They include catching accessibility issues before they are a problem, printing beautiful review copies, and evaluating offset printers before spending several thousand dollars on a big print run.


These are prototype copies of Highways & Byways – I sent them out to reviewers in the second week of January 2018.


This guide comes in five parts:

  • Ordering Print-on-Demand Samples for Rapid Prototyping
  • Testing for Accessibility
  • Quality Assurance in Board Gaming
  • Ordering Sample Kits from Offset Printers
  • Ordering Custom Samples from Offset Printers



Ordering Print-on-Demand Samples for Prototyping


There are a lot of companies out there who can help you create really pretty board game prototypes before you commit to a much larger print run. These include The Game Crafter, Make Playing Cards, and Board Games Maker. I mentioned them a while back in How to Create Board Game Specs and Files for Your Printer. If you’re not familiar with these sites, have a look at the article I just linked. It will catch you up to speed.

The basic idea of ordering print-on-demand samples is to avoid the long wait time and the high cost of ordering offset printer samples. Offset printing is what is used for large print runs like 500 and 1,000. The set-up costs are high, but the per-unit cost is low. That means a print-on-demand company could crank out a board game prototype for around $100 as opposed to an offset printer which could charge $500 or more.

Whether you are printing review copies, looking to test your game with better parts, or simply see your ideas come to life in a beautiful way, ordering print-on-demand samples can be really handy. For Highways & Byways, I used print-on-demand samples to test the size of certain pieces on the board. This helped me realize that certain pieces that I wanted to use were a little too big, so I ordered some smaller pieces.


Testing for Accessibility


I’ve talked about accessibility several times on this blog. In fact, you might want to see parts 1, 2, and 3 of my conversation with Dr. Michael Heron of Meeple Like Us on the subject. This can get really deep really fast, but for simplicity sake let’s just say this: ordering samples of your game can help you make sure your game is easy to use under the conditions it is likely to be played.

Here is an easy to understand example from Highways & Byways. My game contains Travel Markers – round pieces a half-inch (1.25 cm) in diameter that are placed on the board to mark destinations. I was worried that their small size would be problematic for players from a physical accessibility standpoint. Turns out that nobody I played it with had a problem – and I played with a lot of people! Testing with different components for tactile ease-of-use went a long way. I ended up using punch-out pieces that were 2.5mm thick instead of 1.8mm thick.



You can usually make your own board games for play-testing using what you’ve got around the house. Posterboard and Sharpie markers go a long way. Yet if you really want to test every facet of your game for physical and visual accessibility, printing a copy and testing it is ideal.

Once again, I’ll plug parts 1, 2, and 3 of my conversation with Dr. Michael Heron of Meeple Like Us. Scroll all the way to the bottom and you’ll see a nice, easy-to-use checklist of things you’ll want to test for. Pick what’s important and make a list that you can check off.


Quality Assurance in Board Gaming


No matter what accessibility issues you may encounter, some things are constant in board game quality assurance. If you send out copies of your game to board game reviewers, they need to be good quality. They don’t have to be 100% perfect, but they need to have no glaring flaws, no major differences from a gameplay standpoint, and they need to photograph well. For copies you send to publishers, it may be a different story, but if you’re going the self-publish through Kickstarter route like I am, you need good copies.

You’ll need to test every component for print quality. There are a few things you’ll want to look out for specifically: quality of materials, quality of colors, and print alignment.

Cards need to feel sturdy and not cheaply made. If you want to see what bad cards look like, go to the Dollar Tree and by a 2-pack of playing cards for a dollar. If your cards come out like that, you need to reprint them before sending them out reviewers. They need to feel like something you’d get out of a box of Pandemic or Magic. Hold up a light to them, make sure they’re not see through. Make sure there isn’t a strong and weird inky smell.

Make sure colors look right. Check under both bright and dim lighting. If your colors come out too dim, you might have used RGB colors on your computer instead of CMYK. That forces printers to substitute RGB colors which cannot be printed by CMYK printers with whatever’s closest – usually not the best match. If you use CMYK colors on your computer from the beginning, you’ll have much, much better control on how your printed pieces come out. If your colors come out soaked, muddy, and ugly, you might have a problem with ink saturation. If your blank ink comes out to be a dark gray ink by mistake, you probably weren’t using rich black. A good offset printer will help you fix all this stuff before you spend thousands of bucks, but print-on-demand printers will just print whatever you give them with no editing.

When you’re making cards, boards, rules, punch-out pieces, or anything that requires printing, you never want to print all the way to the edge. If the printers are even slightly out of alignment, you’d lose some of the information you wanted to print. Check all your printed materials to make sure they printed dead on the center, or as close as possible. As an example, if you print a deck of cards and everything is shifted to the right, that means it was out of alignment.

As for pieces made from plastic or wood, just make sure they don’t feel cheap. Wood shouldn’t splinter, plastic should feel sturdy, and the sizes and colors should be correct. If they’re not, you can usually compensate by buying different pieces.


Ordering Sample Kits from Offset Printers


Once you’ve figured out how to make a game that prints and plays well with print-on-demand machines, you may want to order a larger print run. To do that, you would need to look into offset printing. Offset printers cost lots and lots of money to create prototypes, so they have another method of evaluating their work. You can ask for a sample kit.


My sample kit from Print Ninja included a ninja mask.


Sample kits will contain games printed by the company. Though they won’t be original copies of your game, you can get a rough idea of the quality of their work through what they send you. See the previous section for an idea of what to look for. Just about any offset printer worth their salt will be willing to send you a sample kit for free. If they aren’t willing to do that, I consider that a red flag.


Ordering Custom Samples from Offset Printers


Once you’ve figured out how you want your game to look through rapid prototyping with print-on-demand copies, you can order custom samples of your game from offset printers. This is a very expensive process, but there are a few reasons you might want to do it. First of all, sample kits will naturally contain only the best samples – you know, the ones the printer wants you to see before you spend thousands or tens of thousands on a large print run. Second, there are small deviations in product quality between different companies, so you might want a hard copy just to know what to expect. Last, you can get out of a large print run if you don’t like the sample. Losing several hundred dollars because you don’t like the samples is much better than losing several thousand dollars because you don’t like the product that you printed.




Quality assurance is very important to establish yourself as someone who others can trust. In board games, that often involves a mix of usability testing and meticulously looking over every inch of the product. Rapid prototyping through print-on-demand services can help you speed up the whole process before eventually printing a larger run with an offset printer.

Have any questions about ordering or testing game samples? Let me know in the comments 🙂

How to Find a Board Game Printer

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Board game development is a very individual process. Every single developer has different methods for creating their games. This article is the eighteenth of a 19-part suite on board game design and development.

I’ve written about How to Create Board Game Specs and Files for Your Printer. Now it’s time to talk about finding the right company to print your board game. Since you will most likely be using offset printing to make your board game, you will have to print 1,000 copies or more. Because of the high costs of board game printing and the importance of product quality in establishing your reputation, it is absolutely necessary to find a good company.


Board game printing is a little bigger than your average office inkjet printer can handle.


This guide comes in five parts:

  • Finding Printers
  • Testing Communication
  • Checking for Quality
  • Estimating Costs
  • Estimating Timetables



Finding Printers


Because printing is simultaneously very expensive and a big factor in how customers perceive you, doing your homework is critical. You will spend a lot of time on research, much of which will be spent looking for the perfect printer. Before you do that, though, I recommend you learn as much as you can about the printing process. For that, I have two great resources for you. The first, because I am a fiend for self-promotion, is my article How to Create Board Game Specs and Files for Your Printer. The second is the absolutely fantastic Printing Academy series by PrintNinja.

Once you have a sense of what offset printing is and you can confirm that you need it, there are lots of good resources online provide you with a list of printers. You can always find board game printers by checking on Google and Board Game Geek for the most up-to-date information. There is a particularly good list on the blog of James Mathe, but you should be careful about using it. It is, at the time of this writing, at least four-and-a-half years old. The industry moves too fast for one site to keep up a decent list.

Find five printers you would like to talk to. It’s even better if you can find ten. Make a list and start asking around on Board Game Geek or social media. It’s not enough to find a recommendation on a blog that’s not updated frequently. It’s much better to ask someone who recently had work created by the companies you’re considering. If you hear any red flags regarding quality, communication, cost, or timeliness – keep on walking. The industry is too big and too active to take a risk on a bad printer.


Testing Communication



From the moment you contact a printing company for the first time, consider it a test. We’ll talk about what to actually say when you’re requesting a quote or samples next week, but suffice it to say that no matter what you ask for, how the company communicates in response is critical. Here are a few questions to ask yourself about the company you’re looking into:

  1. Do they communicate in a timely manner?
  2. Do they provide all information you need?
  3. Many printers are overseas – how good is their understanding of English?
  4. Do they provide you with tips on increasing quality or performing a more cost-efficient operation?

If the answers to any of these questions are negative, you need to stop talking to the printer. You shouldn’t have to wait much more than a week after requesting a quote. After that, responses to your inquiries should be pretty rapid. If they take too long, it means they have too much work or they’re giving you the run-around. Either one is a problem and not yours to deal with.

Make sure they answer all your questions and give advice on best practices. Offset printing is a massive commitment for small business owners, and you don’t want to deal with someone who doesn’t want to help you make an excellent product. Finally, make sure they understand English well. I’m sure many low-cost printers in China can produce excellent work, but if they can’t communicate fluently in English, the odds of a high-cost miscommunication are too high for my taste.


Checking for Quality


Next week, I’ll go into a lot more detail about how you can check the quality of your printer’s work. This subject goes pretty deep because there are a lot of aspects to it, some of which are your responsibility to get right and some of which are theirs. For now, you should understand that just about any printer worth your time should be willing to provide a sample kit for free. If they do not provide a sample kit for free, that is usually a pretty big red flag. While this will not involve a custom-made sample of your game, which would be very expensive for them to do, you would be able to see how similar projects by the same printer turned out.


Estimating Costs


Estimating the cost of printing can be very difficult. First, it depends heavily on the quantity ordered and the location you plan on shipping your games to for fulfillment. Either way, you need to ask for multiple quotes.

When asking for a quote, always ask what the minimum order quantity (MOQ) is. Odds are that it will be 1,000 games or greater, but I’ve seen some who are willing to print as few as 500. You’ll want to ask for a quote at the MOQ, 2 times the MOQ, and 5 times the MOQ. Make sure to also ask about shipping cost – tell them to base their estimates off the zip code of a fulfillment warehouse you’re interested in. If you don’t know where you’ll be shipping your inventory, just give them the zip code of the closest port city. (For me, this would be Savannah, GA).

Bear in mind that both printing and shipping quotes often do not include everything. They do not always include the price of customs or taxes. You should always ask if quotes include customs or taxes. If not, assume that everything will be 20% more expensive than it says once customs are applied.

Last but not least, if your game will be marketed to children younger than 14, set aside some money for child safety testing. This is an important legal requirement that you must obey in order to be compliant with EN-71  and ASTM F 963 safety standards. The cost of safety testing depends on the components in your game. For Highways & Byways, it is going to be about $1,000 no matter what quantity I print.


Estimating Timetables


Last but not least, you need to get an idea of how long it will take for each printer to fulfill your order. In general, the pre-press process will take a couple of weeks. Then printing will take a few weeks. Shipping by sea to your warehousing location will take two to three months. All totaled, printing and shipping your game to a warehouse for fulfillment is about a four-month process. Even still, you need to get hard facts from each individual printer.



The board game printing process can be a difficult one to get right. You need to research companies, email back and forth to test their communication skills, check the quality of their work, and estimate time and cost. It can be overwhelming, so start this as early as you can – right after you have a good idea of your board game’s specs.

Do you have any questions about board game manufacturing? I’d love to read and reply to them below 🙂